Ruckus Fall 5k – Postponed!

It’s happened again.1005961_698146386881676_1579819343_n

Just one day after the closure of Run For Your Lives, another well known and well respected obstacle course race has taken the drastic step of canceling their event just 2 days before it was scheduled to run.

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Why I Didn’t Race This Weekend (Reviewing a Cancelled Event)

 

It is a beautiful, sunny, Saturday morning here in Vermont.  I am supposed to be racing; however, I’m sitting in front of my computer instead.  I am supposed to be enjoying the thrill of the most fun, most exhilarating, most innovative obstacles the OCR world has ever seen, but instead I’m listening to the monotonous click of the keyboard as I type this article. I didn’t miss this morning’s OCR due to injury, illness, or weather reasons.   This morning I am sitting at home instead of racing because just five days before the inaugural PeepleChase, the race directors called the whole thing off.

I hate to be a pessimist, in fact I typically choose to see the best in every situation, but I can’t say that I was surprised at the announcement that PeepleChase would not happen.

Back in February I came across a new race series that was at the time known as the “Bloody Murder Race”.  The website,

Where are these guys going?

Where are these guys going?

while adequately and professionally designed, contained no substantial information regarding the race itself.  Stock photos of other obstacle course races and numerous ambiguous claims of top-secret yet innovative obstacles, promising to be like nothing ever seen before, filled every corner of the website.  And I cannot fail to mention my favorite, a promotional video of four young men running aimlessly through the woods while yelling, never once encountering an actual obstacle.

At some point, the Bloody Murder Race rebranded, with the same logos and catch line of “It’s Bloody Brilliant”, but was now known as the “PeepleChase” series: a steeplechase course for people.  The mud run stock photos were replaced with steeplechase stock photos, with the same vague claims and promises of world class obstacles.    The PeepleChase Facebook page, which very quickly swelled to over 10,000 fans, also contained ambiguous post after post, without ever providing any sort of solid details of the race itself.   However, despite the large fan base, on April 27th, PeepleChase announced via Facebook that due to low registration numbers, they were canceling not only the scheduled inaugural event in Vermont, but the next three events as well.

It is no secret that obstacle course racing has gone from the new kid on the block to an incredibly popular and rapidly growing sport.  As to be expected, this sudden boom in popularity has entrepreneurs everywhere wondering how they can become a part of (and cash in on) this success.   This of course, brings plenty of benefits to the obstacle course racing world as a whole: bigger sponsors mean more venues, more athletes, and more recognition to our beloved sport.

However this sudden growth also brings a new kind of undesirable “obstacle” to obstacle course racing.  We are suddenly bombarded with new obstacle course races popping up left and right, each one claiming to be more challenging, more exciting, or muddier than the others.   While most of these new organizations and race directors have the best of intentions, the unfortunate truth is that some are putting financial gain before the wellbeing of their potential participants, and the obstacle course racing community as a whole.   With all of these new races to choose from, it has become a game of chance for athletes, as they gamble on the probability of a race that lives up to its claims versus the potential of a poor or even unsafe experience.

In the last year alone, we have seen multiple organizations who failed to provide the experience they advertised, with some, such as PeepleChase and Jungle Cup, suddenly canceling preregistered events altogether.   Even more concerning are the new races that seem to be hastily thrown together with little to no concern for safety.  While risk taking is an inherent part of obstacle course racing, there are certain safety standards that should simply not be ignored, especially when you consider that the majority of race participants are weekend warriors, and not elite athletes.  The established races on the circuit are known for spending hefty amounts for the design and engineering of their obstacles.   Other races seem to regard safety as a low priority, and as a result, end up with more reports of injury and negligence, rather than victory and personal triumph.  Take for example, the 2012 Rebel Race in Haverhill, Massachusetts.   A quick internet search will reveal one negative race report after another, with almost all of them mentioning not only the lack of emergency personnel on course, but the numerous injuries due to poor obstacle construction, such as a rope traverse over a rock gulley.

Can you draw some squiggly lines? You too can be a race director.

Can you draw some squiggly lines? You too can be a race director.

While races like these certainly give more credibility to the successful organizations, they have the potential to damage the reputation of the obstacle course racing community as a whole.   Consumers are now becoming more hesitant in regards to registering for newer races on the circuit, which unfairly affects those races that have the potential to provide a really great course and experience.   The injuries due to careless planning by race directors or poor obstacle construction exacerbate the ever growing concern that obstacle course racing is simply an unsafe sport.  In the long run, all of these concerns will only inhibit the growth of obstacle course racing.

This brings us full circle back to the current demise of the PeepleChase race series.   I certainly am not accusing this organization or their directors of being careless with their course design, nor attempting to enter the OCR circuit simply for financial gain.   I will, however, point out that their inability to gain traction for their events is a result of, and contributor to, the aforementioned issues.    Simply put, consumers want to know that they are going to get their money’s worth: a well-executed race that lives up to all of its claims, as well as the standards the community as a whole has come to expect.  PeepleChase spent months trying to advertise and bring hype to a race with little to no concrete evidence or clout to back up their bold statements…and the consumers have spoken: PeepleChase reported only 40 participants had registered for the first day of their inaugural race.   Further, on April 29th, a plea for help was posted on their Facebook wall in the form of crowd sourcing; PeepleChase was seeking donations to help get their race off of the ground and recover expenses from their failed launch.  *Six days later, they have  raised a mere $176.

*Editor’s note: Crowdsourcing is a great way for people and communities to support new creative projects in a way that makes the most of technology and art. However, in this instance, it seems to be saying “Hi, we aren’t very good businessmen and couldn’t figure out a way to sell tickets to our non-existent race. Would you give us 50 grand?

My advice to PeepleChase and all future potential race organizations is to focus less on outdoing their competitors in the field with bravado talk of bigger, newer, and muddier claims, and instead provide a solid, well executed race that will exceed the expectations of participants.  I speak not only for myself, but on behalf of the obstacle course racing community as a whole, when I say that for a large majority of us, this sport is far more than a passing fad.  Obstacle course racing has become a passion and a lifestyle for many, and we take pride in the future of our sport.   In order to see obstacle course racing continue to grow, we demand entities wishing to enter our community not only take their role seriously, but treat the community as a whole with respect.

 

  Heather G. was bummed not to run this race. Find out what else makes her tick over at Relentless Forward Commotion.

Muckfest in Boston Review

MuckFestMS came out of nowhere for the New England region – this was the first race of their 2013 calendar, and their first visit to New England.

I really hope they come back. They had an awesome race.

The venue was right on the grounds of Fort Devens – only a 30minute drive from my house and the closest OCR I’ve ever attended. Point of trivia, the surviving Boston bomber was moved to Fort Devens (it’s a medical prison facility) the night

Muckfest Boston Strong

Muckfest Boston Strong

before, but this didn’t affect the event at all – and while there wasn’t a HUGE amount of elevation change on the grounds, it was littered with some pretty awesome trail running terrain and big open fields. Easily found just off RT2, they also had plenty of parking for the event size, and it was a short walk over the field to the festival location itself.

I don’t know how many events they had put on before this, but they were really slick – big checkin tents, all computerized – with an express checkin line for the VIPs and Biggest Team / Biggest Fundraisers. Each bib and Chronotrak chip had tear off tags for shirt pickup, meal ticket, beer ticket and bag/key check tickets. Because my team, the New England Spahtens were the biggest team of the day – I breezed through the express checkin line in minutes, and headed over to the tent they provided for us, and hung out with the team.

We had actually split our heats, half the team running at 10:30, the other half at 1:30 (with some repeat runners) – I was in the 1:30, so I got to walk the course a little and take photographs of the 10:30 heat. MuckFestMS did a great job of putting some big, scary looking obstacles at the end – in the last 1/2 mile or so – a water jump, giant human swing, huge cargo net, low tunnel crawl were all in the last stretch and provided a great spectator area without having to go too far away from the food/beer/potties.

Eventually, it was time to line up for the 1:30 wave. The starting coral was the usual – an MC pumping up the crowd, music, some light bantering and teasing from the guy with the mic, then they turned on the sprinklers over the start line, and we were off, on time, with minimal clogging at the chute. The first obstacle were some simple down and up muddy trenches to get your feet wet, before we hit what, for lack of a better word, was the giant hanging balls obstacle. Descriptive – they had giant hanging inflatable Orbs (the kind you see at a tubing park or ski slope) – sure beat the typical “hang a few tires on a wobbly wooden frame” obstacle we see at so many smaller events.

Then into some trails – no narrow single track trails at the venue – they were nice and wide, and easy to navigate people on. In fact, the entire time I was out there, I never ran into a spot on the trail where I felt held up – I did have to say “on your right!” a few times for walkers, but that was about it – they moved over, gave me a cheer and no one had their feelings hurt.

I hate doing obstacle walk throughs – I’ve made a 5min long video you can see at the end of this blog post if you want to see them in chronological order, but they had some seriously notable obstacles. Stuff I’ve never seen, anywhere.

The Spinner – looks like an old fairground ride made obstacle – four giant steel arms, rotating around a water mud pit, with several ropes hanging off. Grab a rope, hang on, try not to fall in. I fell in.

MuckFest MS Obstacles

MuckFest MS Obstacles

Oh Crap – a slanted wall – with a flat base for your feet, and rock climbing grips for your hands, this was considerably easier than the traverse walls at other races, but with a mud pit behind it, wetter if you fell.

Oh Muck – a jump from a platform into a watery bath of cold water. Nothing crazy, unless you hate heights. Or water. Or both.

Swing Set – a human sized swing – huge, all steel construction with a swing you jump on, get moving, then launch yourself into the water.

Even their cargo nets were huge, well constructed and intimidating for even a seasoned OC racer. There were also the usual crawls under nets, through mud, over/under logs in water baths, through pipes – teeter totter see-saws provided the only backlog I saw on the course before hitting the big cargo net by the end.

The venue had it’s own share of natural obstacles – lots of wide open and flat trails that were interrupted by some seriously steep and treacherous hills to make it down (and of course, what goes down must come back up).

At one point in the course, they had a “shortcut” option for people who had bitten off more than they could, or wanted, to chew – a graceful 5k path, or keep running for the full 5 miles (which was GPS’d at around 4.5 miles)

Clearly, MuckFestMS was about raising funds for MS research, and not a competitive OCR – despite that, they did have a

MS Muckfestfor Mom

MS Muckfestfor Mom

competitive wave at 9am that the NE Spahtens placed well in – but the race itself had no penalties for missed obstacles, and clearly attracted a different crowd to your competitive race. Family teams, older people, people living with MS – I saw one tough as nails lady with a cane walking at the back of the wave, through the mud pits – she told me she was supposed to run the race, but her MS had flared up – she was going to do the thing anyway, and take as long as it took. Once I was running on the course, I quickly caught up with the back markers from earlier heats, the people who were slower, or walking, or waiting on team mates. Definitely a different, less competitive, less aggressive crowd than we see at other events.

The festival was also good – a live band (as usual, too loud for a social occasion, in my opinion), a tear off meal ticket snagged you a pre-wrapped sandwich and chips, a tear off beer ticket snagged you two cups of coors light (yuck – real beer please!), a tear off ticket got you a finishers shirt of pretty good quality – no medal here, unless you placed in some way. Beers were also being sold (at $4, too expensive, but with tickets flying around no one had to pay), as was better quality food – burgers, fried chicken, hotdogs, popcorn and granola bars – I still don’t understand why these events don’t have a much better selection of good foods.

I’d heartily recommend MuckFestMS – they got a great balance between a fun course with easy to manage obstacles for the new comers and first timers – along with challenging and technical obstacles that would give the competitive fast runners a moments pause while they figure it out and navigated through. The distance was great and the venue provided some really nice trails. The festival was well run, with very few things to complain about – and the event organizers worked well with the biggest team and fundraisers.

5 Minute Video of all obstacles

We want to thank Paul Jones for his first contribution to ORM. He is one of the main men behind the New England Spahtens.  If you are anywhere near New England, we highly reccommend joining their facebook group. What is a New England Spahten? Check out their FAQ here.

Civilian Military Combine (CMC) 4.6.13 Recap (NYC-USS Intrepid)

The Civilian Militry Combine (CMC) is an obstacle course style race that has gained popularity the past 12 months. However, the CMC is different to other Obstacle Course races (OCRs) out there because of something known as The Pit. Racers begin the race in The Pit, an area with weights and equipment in which competitors perform AMRRAP (as many rounds and repetition as possible) of various exercises before moving onto the obstacle course. The April 6th event was something special because it took place on Pier 84 in the shadow of the Intrepid in NYC.

I arrived early Saturday morning with several of the New England Spahtens and feeling ready to represent Reload Fitness. The weather conditions were perfect, sunny blue skies and a slight cool breeze. The CMC had provided 2 addresses for parking lots very close to the venue. These were public parking lots and in NYC meaning they were more pricey than usual. We had received a discount parking pass but found out that the employees of the parking lots weren’t honoring the pass and not giving the discount that was on the pass. They did give a small discount and considering how close we were to the venue it was better than nothing.

After leaving the car we began walking to the race location. I rounded a corner and was immediately confronted with the Intrepid in all its glory. It was breathtaking. I couldn’t believe that CMC had managed to secure such a unique location. I was feeling very honored that I was a participant in a race in the shadow of this magnificent ship.

USS Intrepid CMC

USS Intrepid CMC

The registration was very easy to spot, right outside the entrance to the Intrepid. Registration was fast as there were no lines and the volunteers appeared to be very organized. Bags had to be searched and we had to walk through a metal detector before being allowed onsite. Again this was a smooth process and we got into the venue pretty quickly. I made it into the area just in time for the National Anthem shortly preceding the first heat.

Each heat consisted of 4 racers. They would follow a volunteer/staff into The Pit and assigned a station. Each station had a barbell (75lb for men and 45lb for women), a kettle bell (46lb for men and 26lb for women), and a 20” box (universal height), and a judge. Judges were provided from a local CrossFit gym, CrossFit Revenge. This meant that the judges knew how to score a rep and what to look for. The Pit at this event comprised of a 7 minute AMRRAP of 7 push-press, 7 kettle bell swings, and 7 box jump burpees. There was a warm-up area immediately before The Pit where competitors could practice the required moves with the same equipment.

When racers had completed the 7 minute Pit the heats of 4 would exit the area and immediately be at the start line of the obstacle course. There was no rest time. About one minute after completing The Pit the participants had begun the course. This meant you had practically no time to lower your heart rate and feel prepared to run.

CMC The Pit

CMC The Pit

The race course itself was the shortest I had ever encountered at 0.5 miles in distance. But in that half a mile were about 30 obstacles including a prowler/sled push, sandbag and bucket carry, monkey bars, ladders, cargo nets, and a lot of 5ft walls. The entire course was very spectator friendly with spectators able to follow the racers along the course and see every single obstacle. When racers crossed the finish line they were presented with a CMC goodie bag including a t-shirt, event dog tags, and wrist bands.

After the last open heat scores were tallied and the top 100 competitors raced again in a champion’s heat. The scoring was a very fair system. The top male and female in The Pit would receive 200 points and participants would be scored against them. The same occurred for the obstacle course. This system allowed men and women to be scored equally against each other.

Nele Schulze CMC

Nele Schulze CMC

The champion’s heat happened later than planned as it seemed to take a while to convert The Pit results into scores and add them to the course scores. Watching the top 100 competitors in the Pit the second time was awesome. These people had given 100% in the first round and had found the energy and drive to give 100% again. You could see the effort and energy being expended in the faces of the competitors.

As soon as the champions heat had finished CMC began packing up and it was hard to believe that a few minutes before were screaming spectators, loud music, and a wonderful energetic atmosphere. The final results were to be posted online the next day so people dissipated very fast. I imagine looking for local restaurants to re-fuel.

Overall the event was very well run. There were no bottle necks at any of the obstacles, the transition between the Pit and the course was very smooth and quick, and it was extremely spectator friendly. There were some tents giving away free products and selling workout items and any questions I had were answered by volunteers and staff. There was a leader board updated every couple of minutes so the progress of the competitors could be tracked. I am already looking forward to the New England event on June 29th at Amesbury Sports Park.

 

The final results were:

Men

1st – Benjamin Isabella (177 Pit reps, 5:56 course time, 191 points overall)

2nd – Kevin LaPlatney (178 Pit reps, 6:08 course time, 188 points overall)

3rd – Kevin Varno (173 Pit reps, 6:01 course time, 185 points overall)

Women

1st – Kelly O’Donnell-Daudlin (145 Pit reps, 6:55 course time, 127 points overall)

2nd – Tracey Magee (166 Pit reps, 8:36 course time, 111 points overall)

3rd – Katrina Przjemski (133 Pit reps, 7:40 course time, 94 points overall)

(all results can be found at http://civilianmilitarycombine.com/results/index.html)

CMC Monkey Bars

CMC Monkey Bars

 

 

 

 

 

CMC Dog Tag

CMC Dog Tag

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CMC Obstacle Amputee

CMC Obstacle Amputee

 

CMC Intrepid Nets

CMC Intrepid Nets

 

 

 

CMC Pit Panorma Shot

CMC Pit Panorma Shot